This is where

Come on in - the party will be starting soon! Yorktown, December 2006

Come on in – the party will be starting soon! Yorktown, December 2006

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.  —
David Whyte

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know it has been a very personal journey for me.  It has required a degree of disclosure that was quite difficult, and not without risk. While I’ve written voluminous amounts over the years, at least 80 percent of it has been in the form of personal, one-to-one correspondence, by letter, and later, increasingly, by email.  Putting my words out into the open for all to see terrified me for many years, even after I was first published over 20 years ago, and it’s still intimidating for me when I stop to think about it.

When one lives a private, almost isolated life as I have lived for many years now, anonymity becomes a shield of protection and a cloak for vulnerability.  But such safety, if it exists at all, is mostly illusory.  A year later, I believe that the rewards of venturing into the scary but exciting terrain of cyberspace largely unarmed (to use Glennon Doyle Melton’s apt description) has been worth the risk for me.

So today I thank you for visiting me in my online home; now let’s take a journey with the Ghost of Christmas Past. I ask you to step, in spirit, into our York family room at Christmas time.  Neither you nor we are able to be there today, but if we were, we could introduce you to the friends who, over many years, have filled that space with endless conversation, both lighthearted and serious, along with boisterous laughter, and even ukelele music and singing.  Many of these loved ones have moved away; one has left this earth, and others we hope to see in our York home again in the future.  Today, you are welcome to be there in spirit with us, a place where everyone belongs.  I hope you will know the joy of creating such spaces and places wherever you may live in the physical world. There is no place quite like the house of belonging.

One year ago today

Curiosity conquers fear


  1. merry

    Good morning, Julia. What a lovely home. Thanks for inviting me to share it with you.
    Christmas Blessings to you, Jeff, and Matt.

    • Merry, thanks for visiting! I hope you are having a wonderful time this December.

  2. Susan

    Julia, Thank you for sharing beauty, warmth and love. We can get through a lot in life with hope and opening our eyes to what is good around us. May God bring you and your family joy, comfort and healing. In Jesus name. – Susan

    • Susan, thanks so much for your warm wishes and presence here. We appreciate your prayers for us, and we believe they are being answered in a very good way.

  3. Thank you for inviting us and for allowing us to walk this journey with you. We are all connected. ♥

    • Yes, we are! Thanks for being here with us.

  4. Jim Beavers

    Julia, I also have the fear of “Putting my words out into the open for all to see…”. I am so glad that you were able to overcome your fear and have been able to “put your words out…” into cyberland. Your words have been a huge help and comfort to me for the past year. Thank you so much.

    • Jim, I am so happy to know that my words have been a help. I guess words have always been what defined my life in one way or another (words and photos anyway) and sooner or later I knew I’d eventually have to get over my fear of being read. Thanks so much for letting me know that you have found them worthwhile. It’s not as scary when I know someone might benefit from them.

  5. This blog has helped me so much with my isolation. I read it each day with love.

    • Cherie, thanks so much for this kind comment. For many years now I’ve observed that feelings of isolation seem increasingly common in our world, despite all our means of connecting. I think that’s why “reality TV” has become so popular. People really do need to be in touch with each other. I am so happy to know you are reading the blog each day!

  6. Carlyle

    Dearest Julia,
    Thank you for your warm invitation. Your mother and I will be happy to join you in your house of belonging.

    • Daddy, I have such fond memories of our very first Thanksgiving in our York home, which we celebrated with you, Mama, and Carla’s family – I especially love the memory of how we all watched “The Muppet Christmas Carol” together! This house is just an extension of our old East Point home 🙂 . Thanks for being here!

  7. Michael

    What is the Heaven Bound show in Atlanta? A kind of Xmas extravaganza?
    As you know-grandchildren are kind of a game changer. My friend Donna says she loves her kids, but she would kill for her grandchildren. With both grandkids on the east coast there is a magnetic pull east.
    The other restaurants I remember in Atlanta are Waffle House- which my daughter in law hates and Cracker Barrel which she likes.
    I like your winter suggestion of endless cups of tea, reading and writing, but ice is not my thing and yesterday I was thankful for ABS as I was slipping over the roads a couple of times.
    Your home looks beautiful and very welcoming. Nice tree. I am am doing something whimsical for a tree this year and will try and send a pict.

    • Mike, Heaven Bound is not at Christmas; I can’t remember when it is, but it’s a sort of allegory (in song) about pilgrims and their journeys in this world. The Devil (who was played by an amazingly delightful actor when we saw the production) uses various means to try to pull them away from their goals. With some he succeeds and with some he does not. I don’t know whether it has changed since we saw it, but it was certainly one of the most unique musicals I can remember seeing.

      Cracker Barrel is my very favorite restaurant! They are everywhere except perhaps the west coast. I have a very funny story about my friend Amy’s birthday at Cracker Barrel that I may write about here on the blog sometime. Waffle House is also in other cities, at least in the south – what I most remember about Waffle House is the fact that it’s open all night; I don’t think they are famous for much else. I love ice on the trees, but not on the roads and sidewalks! Very treacherous. I’ll look forward to seeing a photo of your tree. The way things are going, we may not even get ours done this year.

  8. Ann

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and journey with us.

    • Ann, thank you for being here. I appreciate each and every person who is willing to read my scribbles (even with a computer keyboard it still feels like scribbling! :-))

        • Eric, thanks for sharing this wonderful story. Boomdee posted the video on the blog post that had the Northern Ireland flash mob Christmas video. I just love this type of thing. This is how advertising dollars should be spent! I’d be willing to bet that the viral video exposure will mean this is the most effective dollar-for-dollar promotion ever. I hope big companies will take note and follow suit! Get people out and about instead of relying on them to be brainwashed by TV commercials. Create an event worth sharing, and people will share it. Cyberspace can level the field and change all the dynamics for the better, if we leverage it right.

  9. Jenelle

    What time does the party start? Once again, I’m encouraged that someday my family will live in our dream home. What a beautiful and comfy scene. I want to drink some cocoa by the tree! Thank you for continuing to share wonderful memories and inspirational words with us, especially this time of year. Oh, CA land is incredible! The entire entrance is 1920’s theme and really fun yet classy. I think you might like it 🙂 I’m still amazed how detailed everything is there. Tree ornaments the size of a head and even the calligraphy for the restroom signs are exquisite. We had the privilege of experiencing a reading of Jesus’ birth from the bible, which was followed by a full choir and orchestra singing and playing Christmas carols. This year was only for one weekend and we were blessed to see it! Wow. Ah, I want to go back, haha. No worries about the ornament 🙂 Life is very busy and it will arrive at the perfect time 🙂

    • Well, I’m greatly relieved to know they did a good job on the CA park. I love the 1920’s so I’d probably love it. Disney does everything about their parks so well; no others can quite measure up, in my opinion. You are welcome to pull up a chair for some cocoa! Thanks for being here!

  10. sam

    Enjoyed your beautiful Christmas trees ! Sending Greetings to you and to each member of your family. Guess you will have to make room for another stocking to be added for Grady this year. With gratitude for your blog and the encouragement that it has brought to so many.
    Hope Jeff is feeling much stronger each day and look forward to your getting home.

    • Thank you sam, I am so excited about having Grady with us for Christmas. I had a lot of fun buying little baby toys for him. When Megan and Drew married, we added a stocking for her and dropped mine and Jeff’s so I guess it would be back to four now. As a kid I always loved the magical aspect of the stockings; we had a sort of routine where the kids would come running down at the 4:30 a.m. start time and the first thing we would go for is the stockings (hung by the chimney with care 🙂 in the family room), while Mom and Dad got up and fixed coffee. We would then run upstairs to see what Santa left under the tree in the living room. In a way, the stockings were the most enchanting part since they were the first things we saw. I will never forget how exciting it was to have that first glimpse of their newly-filled appearance, with stuff sticking out of the top!

      I’m so happy you like the blog; it’s a joy to visit with people here and I am honored when people say nice things about it. Thanks so much for your warm wishes and support!

  11. Sheila

    Julia,thank you for inviting us in! Your home is so warm and welcoming. What a pleasure to sit by that beautiful tree with 3000 – 4000 lights. You weren’t kidding! I am so sorry for the circumstances that prompted you to create “Defeat Despair” but the shared daily comments, prayers, tears and laughter, have meant more to me than I can truly express. I really consider you my 2013 friend that God shared with me. It certainly has been a difficult year but personally, you have been a blessing to me! Love and prayers, Sheila

    • Sheila, thanks so much – you will always stand out in my mind as one of many lovely “silver linings” to the dark clouds of the past year. I had no idea whatsoever when I started this blog where it would go, but I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly and I feel so lucky to have so many supportive, delightful (and obviously intelligent and good-looking) readers! Thanks so much for being one of them, and for your steadfast prayers, which have helped so much.

  12. At first I could not figure out where this photo was taken from. It finally came to me that the tree is in the doorway of the sun room and you have moved the chairs into place of pride beside it. It looks beautiful and inviting. I have always wanted Stephen to see your lovely home there. Maybe we will get down that way this spring. Praying all is well with you. Love, A

    • Thanks Amy! Believe it or not I still had to cut the top of the tree off to get it to fit into our York home (in CA we had a vaulted ceiling and the tree was much taller when we first got it in 2000). I put it between the family room and sunroom so that it could be seen 360 degrees, all the way around, for the first time ever (always before it was against a wall). That enabled me to spread out my ridiculously large ornament collection a bit more. I do hope you and Stephen will come down sometime this year. It’s unbelievable that he’s never been there. In good traffic it’s only about 2 1/2 hours from your home. When Jeff drives it, anyway – it takes me a bit longer :-).

  13. Good words. I love the last lines of Whyte’s poem–don’t know how you found it but it is a treasure.

    • I saw the line about the house of belonging referred to in one of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s books; I can’t remember which one. The librarian in me always goes hunting up these intriguing references. I just love the internet for that reason; it’s much easier to find relatively obscure information, though there are still the occasional inexplicably elusive treasures. One such, a favorite of mine since I studied Russian literature in high school (1973-74), I subsequently searched for unsuccessfully, for decades, until my adult son finally found it for me in the library at Emory University several years ago. Now it only took a short search to turn it up, on the blog of another admirer of the poet who wrote it, Andrei Vosnesensky. It’s a tribute to his fellow poet, titled “To B. Akmadulina” – scroll about halfway down this page and you’ll find it in all its translated glory. I hope you like it as much as I do. There are so many unsung masterpieces out there, in my view.

  14. Michael

    You probably have heard this, but one of the ways they judge the severity of storms in the south is by the number of Waffle Houses that are still open. You know things are bad if they are closed. Nothing like them on the West Coast.

    • I’ve never heard that – it strikes me as hilarious, though. Not airports or the mail service, but Waffle House!

  15. Michael

    I think it is called the Waffle House index.

    • I’ll have to snoop around and see if I can find some info on that. It’s very funny to me.

  16. raynard

    Julia for a minute, I thought a squirrel was going to jump out of your tree.( watching too much National Lampoon Christmas Vacation lol I digress We still have our”Charlie Brown Christmas tree up.( now comes the part where I dance to his theme song and I do remember the scripture Linus quote…Glad I got “my milk & bread , we have another”storm coming” tomorrow.. be blessed

    • Hey I went out and got our milk and OJ yesterday too. I heard this storm would be, to quote the Post, “a poor man’s version” of the first one, not as bad (at least in this area) – let’s hope so! Hey there just might be a squirrel somewhere in my tree, the ornaments and lights are so dense that we would never know it if there was one. I wondered what that gnawing sound was…maybe that’s why those lights are blinking?? 🙂

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